What are they for and what do they do in the face of nuclear radiation?

Since a Russian bombing caused a fire in the buildings near the Zaporiyia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, on the banks of the Dnieper River, has triggered fears of a warlike conflict in which nuclear weapons are used or to the consequences of attacks on nuclear power plants.

All of this has aroused interest in drugs that can prevent the effects of such possible nuclear radiation, since the potassium iodide is a stable (non-radioactive) iodine salt that may help prevent the thyroid from absorbing the radioactive iodinetherefore protects the thyroid from radiation damage. The thyroid is the part of the body that is most sensitive to radioactive iodine.

Massive purchase

This situation, coupled with the decision of the Russian president, Vladimir PutinThe decision to put the nuclear deterrent forces on alert has led to a number of countries in the region European countriesmainly in those countries closest to Ukraine such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria or Poland.the population has over-recreated with the massive purchase of iodine tablets. Finland has these days asked its population under 40 years of age to purchase potassium iodide tablets as a preventive measure in case of nuclear radiation risk.

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As explained by Ivan Espadahead of the Medicines Information Department of the General Council of Official Associations of Pharmacists (CGCOF)these tablets are used in case of nuclear emergency to block the thyroidso that it cannot absorb the radioactive iodine that is released. “Massive doses of normal iodine are given so that the thyroid fills up and the radioactive iodine is not allowed to enter,” he details.

Minimum doses

However, drugs that contain potassium iodide and are available in pharmacies by prescription are far from these pills: are intended for the treatment of people who need iodine supplementation, such as in cases of hypothyroidism.

“They have a 0.1 to 0.3 milligram dose, a minimal amount. The Iodine tablets, on the other hand, have a dosage of 130 milligrams.. It would take 400 to 1,300 tablets to reach the dosage of the tablets.“, summarized the expert.

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Espada warns that taking these doses of drugs with potassium iodide can be very counterproductive: “Iodine is a substance that the body needs in a very small amount. Giving such a high dose can lead to intoxication, which can have an effect on the thyroid and block it. Taking this dose for one day will not cause anything, but the problem is massive doses”.

Government plan in case of attack

The CGCOF reminds us that there are contingency plans from the Government in case it would be necessary to distribute these iodine tablets due to nuclear alert. That is, iodine in large doses is distributed among the population in case of nuclear accidents or explosions to meet the needs of the thyroid gland, which can no longer assimilate radioactive iodine and thus avoid the risk of developing cancer. Normally, this type of product is stored in the Military Defense Pharmacy Centerlocated in Colmenar Viejo (Madrid).

Therefore, experts do not see any sense in trying to reach the useful doses in a particular way, among other reasons, because of the high economic cost it would have for the citizen.

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